After a Saturday night conversation with President Donald Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he is feeling ‘increasingly optimistic’ about the president’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria:
“I am increasingly optimistic that we can have some historic solutions in Syria that have eluded us for years if we play our cards right.”
Appearing on Fox Business’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Graham told host Maria Bartiromo he felt reassured after Trump discussed his objectives for Syria. Graham said the president told him he wants to have a ‘demilitarized zone’ between Turkey and the Kurds:
“To make sure we have a demilitarized zone between Turkey and the Kurds. The Kurds were the allies who helped us defeat ISIS. They lost 10,000 soldiers, we’ve lost eight in four years, God bless the eight, but it was the Kurds who did most of the fighting.”
He added that Trump wants to make sure that Turkey feels protected “from elements of the Kurds that they consider to be terrorists.” Graham said Trump told him the demilitarized zone would be “occupied by international forces, no Americans.”
Finally, Graham said he believes that U.S. is “on the verge” of negotiating a deal to keep Syrian oil fields from falling into the hands of Iran or ISIS, which he said would help pay for the cost of U.S. involvement in the region:
“Not only are we going to deny the oil fields falling into Iranian hands, I believe we are on the verge of a joint venture between us and the Syrian democratic forces that helped destroy ISIS and keep them destroyed to modernize the oil fields and make sure they get the revenue, not the Iranians, not Assad, and it can help pay for our small commitment in the future.”
His comments on Sunday mark a significant change in tune on the president’s Syrian policy. Prior to their discussion, Graham was a vocal critic of Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria saying:
“If you continue on the course you’re on, you will have brought a lot of damage to the nation, you’ll abandon a valuable ally, set in motion the re-emergence of ISIS, and Mr. President, as much as I like you and want to work with you, I am going to be consistent. I will hold you accountable.”
In a tweet earlier this month, Graham called Trump’s decision “shot in the arm to the bad guys.”:
Hope and expect sanctions against Turkey – if necessary – would be veto-proof.
This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019
When pressed by Bartiromo about his newfound support of Trump’s policy, Graham said he still believes it is wrong to abandon an ally, and that the initial decision to withdraw U.S. troops complicated the situation in Syria, but he said he feels optimistic about the future:
“After Erdoğan’s invasion, things have gotten scrambled in Syria, but I see a way forward now that really, quite frankly, is historic.”